Pity the partygoer who winds up clinking cocktails with Stephin Merritt, the doyen of the dour-faced.
The third album and first in over a decade by Future Bible Heroes, the baritone-voiced singer/songwriter's synth band with musician/producer Chris Ewen and singer Claudia Gonson, could be a party album for people who hate parties. "Partying" essentially serves as a jumping off point and foil for Merrit's signature acerbic wit and aura of deflated romance, an approach reminiscent of his concept-oriented outings with the Magnetic Fields.
Whereas previous FBH albums mixed kitschy analog flourishes, dance beats and cartoonish lyrics amongst earnest love songs, Partygoing is more streamlined, subtle and mature. So although Ewen writes the instrumental backing tracks, the LP sounds like a continuation of the Fields' return to synths on 2012's Love At The Bottom Of The Sea.
Which is a shame, because the squelchy playfulness in Ewen's arrangements that marked FBH's most memorable tunes is now cloistered by cynicism and studiousness. The Morodoresque Italo of Digging My Own Grave, for example, feels wasted on a dull melody.
Top track: Living, Loving, Partygoing